Gritty Team Effort Lifts Smith to 14th-Place Finish in Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 12, 2012) -- Overcoming continuous adversity was the post-race mantra for Furniture Row Racing as team driver Regan Smith brought home a 14th-place finish in Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500.
The result in the 368-lap Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway was the best finish of the season for Smith, who entered the event as the defending champion.
"We've had our struggles lately and to get a respectable finish tonight is what we needed," said Smith, whose previous best result was 15th at Las Vegas in March. "We kept our composure as we fought through a number of problems."
Smith's No. 78 Furniture Row/CSX Play it Safe Chevrolet was a battered machine when it took the checkered flag at the oldest and toughest venue on the NASCAR circuit.
After qualifying ninth and running in the top-10 for the first 40 laps, Smith smacked the infamous Darlington wall, causing serious right-side damage to his car.
If collecting a Darlington stripe early in the race wasn't bad enough, Smith and the Furniture Row crew were later confronted with other issues.
"After we finally got the right-side fixed where Regan could race the car at nearly full strength, we were faced with more problems," explained crew chief Pete Rondeau. "We got boxed in on one pit stop and then our car suffered front-end damage when contact was made during a restart. Both incidents curtailed our efforts."
Rondeau added, "Regan kept his cool and drove a great race under difficult conditions and our crew guys did an excellent job not only with fast pit stops but also by repairing the car's damage throughout the race. It was an all around team effort."
Smith was also able to continue on after spinning on Lap 307, which brought out the fifth caution of the evening.
"That (spin) was a little hairy, but we kept on going and never gave up," stated Smith.
That never-give-up effort paid off in the end when Smith took advantage of avoiding a late-race accident on the 1.366-mile oval by gaining a number of spots in track position. He then held his own during the nail-biting two-lap green-white-checkered shootout.
"We found more speed this weekend in our Furniture Row/CSX Play it Safe Chevy and that's encouraging," stated Smith. "We came into the race looking for positives and we accomplished that objective. I am really proud about the way this team battled back tonight."
Smith also gained in the driver point standings, moving from 27th to a tie for 25th.
The race winner was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.
The next event is Saturday night's (May 19) Sprint All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith qualified for the annual classic as a result of winning last year's Southern 500.